By Jon Hilkevitch
6:41 PM CST, December 9, 2013
The quick spot-cleaning that CTA rail cars receive when trains pull into terminals in the mornings and afternoons will be eliminated at the end of the year, the transit agency and its rail workers union said Monday.
The CTA has not budgeted for new positions to replace ex-offenders whom the CTA has employed as part-time apprentices since 2007 to clean rail cars and buses, said Robert Kelly, president of Local 308 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. The ex-offenders program will end Dec. 31, the CTA and the union said last week.
The union said trains will be cleaned only on the midnight shifts starting at the first of the year, because the CTA said it is eliminating all morning and midafternoon jobs for car-servicer positions.
“This could become a serious health matter for the public,’’ Kelly said.
CTA spokesman Brian Steele confirmed that effective Jan. 1, all current daytime crews will instead be assigned to work overnight hours to replace the apprentices, who work exclusively at night.
But “rail cars will maintain a high level of cleanliness each and every day,’’ Steele said.
Transit agency and union officials said that general cleanings, which are more extensive than the spot-cleanings that involve trash pick-up and mopping, will take place every 16 days.
Kelly, the union spokesman, said that schedule reflects a change from general cleanings every 14 days, though Steele, the CTA spokesman, said the cleaning regimen for the roughly 1,200 rail cars hasn’t changed.
There are currently 65 ex-offender program participants working for $9.50 an hour as car-servicer apprentices, the CTA said last week. Those positions are in addition to the regular work force, whose union members are paid $13 to $30 an hour for the same work, costing the CTA $2.9 million annually.
CTA officials said Kelly pushed to end the apprenticeship program. They also said the savings from ending the ex-offender program could lead to the hiring of daytime spot-cleaners.
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